The Cincinnati Reds released outfielder Matt Kemp. Cleveland seems like an ideal landing spot but the Indians should look internally for outfield help.
As soon as the news broke that the Cincinnati Reds released Matt Kemp the reactions were very predicable. “The Cleveland Indians should sign Matt Kemp”. This was the rallying call of many. While on paper this makes sense, a right handed outfielder to face left handed pitching. The problem is that Kemp is aging and currently injured. Cincinnati bailed on Kemp when it became unclear just when he will return from a rib injury. When on the field this year Kemp was not all that inspiring, a lowly slash line of .200/.210/.283/493 in 20 games.
The production from Matt Kemp against left handers in regards to slash line in 2019 is a bit misleading. Kemp has a slash .286/.333/.571/.905. While this seems impressive, context matters. This is over 14 at-bats. Matt Kemp has four hits against left handed pitching this season. When looking at sample size it is easy to see why his slash line in this situation can be disregarded.
On the surface Matt Kemp appears to have had a great season last year but the truth is it was an up and down campaign. There were times where Kemp was on fire, but there were also times where he was as cold as cold can be.
There is also the question of where he will play. The reality is that he would probably end up as the right handed Carlos Gonzalez on the roster. Seeing time in the corner outfield spots and the designated hitter position. The Indians do not really need another part time platoon player at this point. They need someone who can play on a daily basis and relegate players such as Tyler Naquin and Jordan Luplow to part time status. Cleveland has a player like this, Oscar Mercado.
Oscar Mercado is excelling in AAA
Yes it is AAA and that literally means nothing, but Oscar Mercado has a slash line of .289/.400/.464/.864 in 25 games with the Columbus Clippers. Mercado has nine doubles, two home runs and one triple with 13 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases, he can do it all. Oscar Mercado is doing everything that the Indians want and more while waiting for his turn in Cleveland.
The production that Mercado can potentially give the Indians in the Majors is vastly different than that of Matt Kemp. Kemp at his best will simply just hit at a modest rate, nothing more. Mercado has the ability to hit against left and right handed pitching and can steal bases. A trait that Cleveland desperately needs to help in the run production department.
Sure, Matt Kemp is a recognizable name that follows in the footsteps of Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, two players that the Indians have signed in hopes they can still produce. Gonzalez did and Ramirez did not, which is why he is no longer on the team. The time for seeing if players still have it was early in the season and not after the first of May.
Cleveland needs everyday production from their outfield. Kemp appears to be just another platoon outfielder that Cleveland already has plenty of. The last thing Cleveland needs is to sign another aging player and ignore the potential of a player in the minors. Let the kid play and help the team out at the Major League level.